AUNG SAN SUU KYI'S UNCONQUERABLE SPIRIT
THE recent release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner, activist and advocate of non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights, brought to an end to incarcerations spanning over 21 years by successive governments in her native country, now known as Myanmar.
Her release by the military-backed ruling party - Union Solidarity and Development Party (US DP) - came the very day her detention warrant issued by a court, in August, last year. was set to expire. The government capitulated to international pressure for her release.
Su Kyi's life and struggle, undoubtedly, put her in that rare class of genuine champions of democracy. Her perseverance, resilience and uncommon commitment to the ideals of democracy in her fatherland also demonstrate her strength of character. These, by all standards, hold her out as one of the most influential personalities of today. Even in the words of the state owned newspaper, New Light of Myanmar, she served her incarcerations 'in good conduct'.
Born into a privileged family, and the only daughter of Aung San, who is considered the father of modern Myanmar, she never ignored the pains and deprivations of her compatriots. Using the National League for Democracy (NLD) which she co-founded on September 24, 1988 and served as pioneer General-Secretary, as a platform, she made her entry into politics with one purpose: democratization.
It came with a heavy price. Repeatedly, she was put under house arrest. At one point in 1989, she was offered freedom by the government in power only if she would leave the country voluntarily, but she refused. Remarkably, one of her most famous speeches is 'freedom from fear', which starts thus: 'it is not power that corrupts but fear'. Fear of losing power, she said 'corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.' It is a speech that resonated with passionate intensity the day she was freed, as she addressed a mass rally of supporters who thronged her house in Rangon.
All through her struggles, she, along with her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), came under virulent attacks and deprivations. For instance, in 1990, the military junta annulled a general election widely believed to have been won by the NLD. In 1996, the motorcade she was traveling in with other party faithful was also attacked.
Despite her poor health, the state, repeatedly renewed her detention order through the State Protection Act, which granted the government power to imprison persons for up to five years without trial. The trial of Suu Kyi along her two maids received worldwide condemnation, from the United Nations to other notable world leaders. Nigeria-born Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, as the UN Under-Secretary-General on Political Affairs, was one notable emissary sent to Myanmar by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, to meet with Suu Kyi and call for her release. But the military junta was adamant. On August 11, 2009, she was sentenced to imprisonment for three years with hard labour. The sentence was later commuted to house arrest for a period of 18 months.
One of the highpoints of her struggles came in 1991 when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. Besides worldwide pressure that led to her release, her freedom was coordinated by a Washington-based non-profit organisation, Freedom Now, which was engaged by a member of her family to help secure her release. Altogether, Suu Kyi, by all accounts, has demonstrated in many ways extraordinary courage and conviction, and has, unmistakably become an excellent symbol of the struggle against oppression throughout the world. We enjoin the military junta in Myanmar to let her cherish her freedom, permanently.